Joel In The Garden

Dry, hot weather puts gardeners in a tough spot

EUGENE, Ore. - Summer heat can do a number on your cool weather plants in the garden, and some gardeners who planted broccoli are left with a tough choice: Either pull it out by the root or chop off its head.

But it’s not too late to try and save some your broccoli before it bolts.

Gardeners in Eugene have spent many mornings on this ritual. “I don't remember the last time I saw rain in town,” gardener Jenny Wunder said.

Wunder, who commutes to the garden about once a week from Vida, has her hands full of weeds and crabgrass, which are constant invaders.

That's coupled with constant watering, trying to pump as much moisture to the roots as possible before the July heat sucks it right out of the ground. “As soon as the sun hits, it's not worth it to keep up with that evaporation and you lose half the water that you put in your beds,” Wunder said.

The July heat has accelerated growth on many plants, and if you're not quick enough, plants like broccoli which are sensitive to the heat, can bolt early. That means it wants to go to seed.

You need to cut the head off the plant before it flowers, otherwise you'll have to pull the entire plant out of the ground and start over again.

Once you cut off the head, your best bet is to hope that the plant grows side shoots.

The heat is not all bad news. Several plants are thriving at this time of year.

A Kohlrabi in a neighboring plot is bigger than my foot. My tomato plants are putting on some weight, and I'm finding small bell peppers starting to form and lemon cucumbers are turning gold. “And the corn is racing up above my head already,” Wunder said.

Gardeners who planted green beans will spend the next few weeks constantly picking. I've also got a few spaghetti squash coming in, but I'm waiting for those gourds to get a bit bigger before I pull them off the vines.

If your broccoli went bad, you will get another chance. There is still a few months worth of warm growing days left, which means vegetables including carrots, radishes and even broccoli can be planted in Oregon as late as August.

Gardeners also can’t forget the four Ws - weeding and water, water, water.